This month, two of my absolute favorite musicians passed away. I guess, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had hoped they would both live forever. Or at least long enough for me to see them in concert and possibly meet them so that I could tell them of the impact that their music had on my life when I was younger. I’m not one to idolize, but the respect and admiration I had for these two men was about as close as I get to having what one would call “idols.” It wasn’t so much that they did anything specific for me, it was more that they were the more tangible proof that God exists in all of us and that in some, His great power manifests in an extraordinary grasp of the human emotion.
These men, while on two very different sides of the entertainment spectrum, both understood what it was like to hurt, to love, to fight, to grow, and to seek the truth. I am greatly saddened by the loss of my favorite entertainers because I know they can never be replaced and that I was never able to tell them of the strength their words and music gave me in some of my darkest hours. As I scrolled through the condolences posted on social media, I was surprised at the noticeable absence of acknowledgement of these two individuals from entertainers in the Christian community. I saw only one Christian artist who was bold enough to admit that Prince had an impact on her and the comments she received for her post were hateful. Not at all what I would have expected from those who claim to be all about love and peace and treating people as Jesus did. Disappointing, to say the least.
I believe that God sends people to us in our time of need. For me, when I was growing up, Merle Haggard represented the man I saw in my father. My dad would sing Merle’s songs so beautifully that at one point, I was certain that he was actually Merle. I grew to respect the fighter that Merle was and the confidence that his songs gave those who had none on their own. Men like Merle spoke volumes to those whose lives were broken before they ever had a chance to meet and understand their Savior. And so, Merle was sort of a catalyst. In some cases, he gave people the motivation to fight and that meant they would pull themselves up by their bootstraps and give it another shot. While not the same message that our Gospel brings, the message of his music brought hope and I believe that’s why God gave him the talent that he gave him.
As a teenager, I had many issues to deal with. I won’t go into detail here because quite frankly, those issues have passed and it would do no earthly good to rehash what has since been healed. Prince was the “love of my life” during those years, albeit an imaginary relationship. Though my father didn’t particularly care for him, I listened to his music for hours on end and it gave me strength, peace, confidence, hope, etc. Because his lyrics spoke directly to the part of me that was hurting, I felt a connection to him. Later, as his music calmed down a bit, I found that my life had also calmed down and that as he grew, I grew. The depth of his lyrics and the beauty of his melodies carried me through many years of loneliness and depression and gave me a reason to keep going. Understand, I was not in relationship with God for a very long time and while I didn’t worship Prince, I surely appreciated being able to lean on him through his music. I believe that, like Merle, Prince’s talent was given to him so that he could connect with the broken in spirit and give them something to enjoy when life seemed so altogether unenjoyable.
As the years went by, I found that I detached from both of these men and music wasn’t such a focus in my life. I went through depression, anxiety, years of loneliness and despair, got married, had a child, went through more trials, divorced, and went through even more trials. And here I am. After all this, as I reflect on the times when I most enjoyed my life, there was this music. At the heart of it all, this music was playing. Telling me that I wasn’t the only one who was hurting. Telling me that on the other side of it all, there could be joy. Aside from the wonderful worship music I’ve come to love, there is a part of me that will always brighten when I hear songs like Silver Wings, Someday When Things are Good, Adore, Pop Life, and so many more.
As Christians, we forget sometimes that there is good in the world that doesn’t look exactly like our definition of Christian. Sometimes it is flashy, sometimes it is bold. Sometimes it makes a lot of noise or is gruff in its presentation. Sometimes, it is still struggling with its own demons and trying to get to that place where it feels worthy of being called holy. Sometimes, the good that is in the world gets stuck in its own perceptions of right and wrong. Sometimes it hasn’t seen a good example of who God is, and so, it is left to figure out how to manifest itself in a way that doesn’t further contribute to the problems of this world. Much of the time, those who are good have had little guidance or instruction in how to fit into the accepted pattern of what “good” looks like. And if they don’t look like the “right” kind of “good,” sometimes those who are “good” will label them as “bad.” And that isn’t necessarily right.
My point is that not every good thing fits into the perfect “Christian” mold that we would like it to fit into. Sometimes God works the greatest miracles through those whom we would never suspect are doing His work. It is easy to point out sin and what people are doing wrong, but if we are Christians and we understand what that means, then we also acknowledge good where we see it. Rest in Peace, Merle and Prince. You did good.
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.”
Acts 15:8-9 New International Version (NIV)